Alexis de Tocqueville

Jayla Blanke
View on America
● Alexis de Tocqueville was a citizen of France, sent to observe American
prisons, by the French government in the 1830’s. While in America, he
began a journal, commenting on the “exceptionalism” of America and its
citizens.
● He focused on five characteristics: Liberty, Equality, Individualism,
Popular Sovereignty, and Laissez Faire.
● Our class assignment was to select an era of American History, after the
Civil War, and look at it through de Tocqueville’s eyes.
Era Selected
I selected the Roaring Twenties, which was
about 1920-1929, because it signified a
change in behavior among women and
society.
Liberty
● Liberty, according to de Tocqueville, was the protection
against a tyrannical government.
● During the Twenties, Liberty was the government not
being able to contain citizens, and the people were able
to behave as they wanted to without being oppressed.

Equality
● de Tocqueville saw equality as a society that did not
have class structure, thus being a society of equals.
● In the Twenties, considering women had entered the
working class after the war, there was no longer
superiority or minority when it comes to men and
women; everybody was equal, male or female.

Individualism
● Individualism, according to de Tocqueville, meant that
people were free to flourish without the limits of
hereditary distinctions, and were free to accomplish
individual goals.
● People in the Twenties were able to achieve the
American Dream, and start a life for themselves. They
were not discouraged by the class they grew into,
because they were able to make a name for themselves.
equality 1920s
Popular Sovereignty
● de Tocqueville believed popular sovereignty meant
common people should participate in politics, giving the
appeal to ordinary people.
● People, especially women, embraced the opportunity to
participate, voting for the presidents and other elected
officials.
Laissez Faire
● de Tocqueville believed that each person was the best
judge of his own interest, keeping a “hands off”
economy.
● The economy was not strict in the twenties, having no
restrictions on banks or money, people were not
worried about the economy.
Quote
“ The best laws cannot
make a constitution
work in spite of
morals.”
- Alexis de Tocqueville
de Tocqueville believed
that a constitution cannot
be enforced if people do
not want to follow it;
people must have good
judgments and do the
right thing on their own
accord, not following a set
of laws.
Afterthoughts...
I believe that de Tocqueville would still view today’s America as an
exceptional country. As a country, we practice freedom of religion,
speech,protest, and expression. Many other countries around the world are
not granted these privileges. America as a whole has also been able to
sustain itself with all of these liberties and not collapse under chaos, which
displays a sense of stability as a country. People are also able to fight for
what they beleive in, which expresses liberty and individualism. America
has succeeded while not being held under tyrannical control, displaying
equal class structures and the freedom of expression.